A walk through the Herringtons at the turn of the century

The main road from Broadmeadows down to the Board Inn.  The first row of houses from the bottom is West Park with the park and cow field between it and the A690.  The darker line across the park is a footpath which years later became the road along to New Herrington and cut the park in half as it is today.  The road lined partly with houses from the centre of the photo towards the top left is the A690 going up to where St Chad’s is now (it was small and lower down then).

Another twenty five years of the parish will bring us well into the next Century. And as the pace of life quickens, people seek for an anchor. Increasingly they set a value on their roots in the community recognising names and places in familiar landmarks.

Stepping back from the bustle of the present let us take an imaginary walk through the Herringtons in the leisurely days at the turn of the Century, weaving those familiar names from the community backwards and forwards to stir the memory.

Approaching Herrington from the East we would pass under the bridge over which the mineral line travelled. It was on November 18th 1822 that the Hetton Coal Company effected their first shipment to the newly built staithes on the Wear. The waggonway at Warden Law was crowded with spectators from the whole area to witness this operation of what was called “powerful and ingenious machinery with five of Mr George Stephenson’s patent travelling engines, two sixty horsepower fixed reciprocating engines and five self-acting inclined planes”. Since these were all under the direction of Robert Stephenson there is no doubt he had many times covered this road to inspect this, at its highest and most spectacular point of the way.

Barely a dozen years later the Rev. John Branfoot, an independent minister was killed on the line, the first of many accidents here. With John Heweson, another preacher and an unnamed female they were walking along this way in February 1831. Noting the oncoming waggons they stepped, as they thought, out of harm’s way. However they had not realised that as the laden waggons passed down the incline so the light waggons were drawn up from behind and at the point of passing they were crushed to death, the lady alone escaping injury. The barefoot runner Bruce Tulloh is a descendant of Rev. Branfoot.

On 3rd October 1918, Mark Whitley, fifteen-year-old son of Mr H. S. Whitley of Silksworth Gardens nearby was killed whilst attempting to ride the moving waggons on his way to South Farringdon farm.

Coming to a footpath at the right side of the road it led in a northerly direction and eventually divided. One path travelled westward following the course of the Burn and emerging at Holme Lea Farm. The other carried past Low Farringdon and joined Durham Road at High Farringdon. This path, like the Bridle Path and Green Lonnen was likely to have been used by the Salters with pannier bags on ponies on their way to the old salt pans at Hylton, and it proceeded by way of the Black Wood to Warden Law. St. Margaret’s Well and also Alice Well at Offerton were near these routes.

Just past the junction of these two paths was a large pond which varied with the rainfall. At certain seasons wild swans would appear to glide gracefully on its surface. It is now covered by the playing fields of Farringdon School.

Along Silksworth Lane again we would pass the footpath skirting Black Wood and running to Warden Law.

The road turns sharply to the West again and we come to the Pumping Station, a landmark with its Wooden Tower. This had been a gin-gang with horse-drawn wheel, the shaft sunk to a depth of some 150 feet by the Lambton Collieries in about 1880 supplying water to their various undertakings. It was converted in 1900 to electricity from Philadelphia Electric Power Station which supplied the current for the tramway system.

Trams lurched their way into Fence Houses, Easington Lane and Penshaw Station to Herrington Burn, East Herrington, Silksworth, Ryhope then Grangetown where it was necessary to change to a Corporation Tram.

The Pumping Station had a platform in the tower to enable the handling of the “spears” or rods which were 15 feet long. The rods and bucket were raised by a rope over a pulley.

Described variously as an ancient monument or an eye-sore and death trap, the Pumping Station had been left a crumbling ruin for a number of years until 6th June 1979 when work started on its total demolition.

Here at the entrance to East Herrington near the side of the houses were troughs set in the ground fed by springs at which the horses from Ivy House could be watered.

Immediately on the left side were two houses and three small cottages for farm workers. These (the houses!) were known as the Five Sisters. Made of stone, they consisted of one room and a loft reached by a ladder through a trapdoor; a common type of house in the area then.

Next came Ivy House itself, with extensive farm buildings. This dates back to the 18th Century and a plaque was found here of c. 1748 bearing the Smythe Arms.

It was worked for many years by the Greenshields family and before 1904 the tenant was Mr Oswald. Mr Alex Greenshields was a pioneer of T.T. milk in the North, a well-known racing man and breeder of Ayrshire cattle. Across the road was Holme Lea, a square built house owned by the farmers Joseph and Tom Brown but the farmstead with two cottages has disappeared.

Next on the North side we come to Garden Place newly built at the turn of the Century and unusual in the area, of red brick. Such is the passage of time that it now merits a Listed Building award. Beside this was Mr John Crosby’s house (The Grange). Crosby was a hay and straw dealer, a character in square bowler hat, frock coat and a long whip useful on boys who sought to catch a ride on the back of his wagon. His stables stood across the road where the latest of the village libraries stood, until the new one was opened between Farringdon and Herrington.

In 1930 the library had been a billiard table in the reading room on which books were placed. When this was demolished it was moved to the upstairs store room of Bell’s Shop built on the vacant site opposite. When the war was imminent W. H. Cairns provided the wooden hut on the site where the garage now stands. In 1956 the villagers raised enough to provide themselves with the building that is now a hairdressers.

Past the Grange stood five farm cottages lived in by Ferries, Taylors and Appletons. A grocery store and garage were erected on this site. At the North East corner had stood a small house and the blackened shell of Peat’s Hall, scene of the murder most foul in 1815.

On the South side of the lane stood the “Haven” – a large old house with Butcher’s shop attached and a large nursery garden away from the wood. It was occupied by a well-known family of butchers called Banks and later by Mr G. E. Angus.

Between the Haven and the South East corner of the crossroads had been two stone cottages. Later brick-built houses and the shop of Mr  Gibson stood here. His “Roseburn” nursery was behind the shop. Here also was St. Margaret’s Well, the water drawn by a small windmill and a source of drinking water for the villagers.

An attractive corner at the turn of the Century, it still retains the gardens that have been a characteristic feature of the Herringtons.

The Durham Road stretches westward past the park and the entrance to Green Lonnen to Stoneygate – and in the North East up the bank past Miller’s Lane and the Bridle Path to High Farringdon.

In the early 1900’s this road was virtually deserted on week-days apart from an occasional farmer’s wagon or brewer’s dray. Only at weekends did it come alive with horse-brakes carrying villagers from the outlying collieries into the town. A world of difference from today! Even by 1910 the nearest housing was at Dunelm opposite the Barnes Hotel and Alexandra Road was just a ring road which was supposed to connect up with the Alexandra Bridge.

By 1910 the Children’s Hospital in Durham Road had been built by public subscription but no other building existed until the Board Inn was reached except the two halfway farms on the bank.

The Lodge guarded the wrought-iron gates into the park and the drive through the trees to the Hall, lined with crocus and daffodils. Here at the corner of the crossroads was the house of John Mason which was also the Post Office and general store. Allan, Fenwick and Harry Mason were well known in local joinery and building at this time. Attached was the Smithy, a Cartwrights shop and a joinery workshop operated by Mr Mason, and before that Mr W. A. Mattches had been blacksmith here.

Behind, there was a cottage occupied by the Carr family, part of which had served as the Village Institute and also served as a reading room and parish council chamber when needed. Close to it was a cottage where once the Village Constable lived. The foundations of some of these buildings still lie in the grass behind the chapel.

Over the road was the Board Inn, in 1900 mine host was Ralph Allison serving the population of 279. Another tenant here was Mr Cairns who met a tragic death when thrown from his trap, the pony having been terrified by the first sight of a Foden Steam-lorry and had bolted.

Turning into Crow Lane – a misnomer considering the caw-cawing of rooks that return each year to build in the great trees, some of which are near a Century and a half old, is the Wesleyan Chapel. The services of prominent members are recorded by brasses in the Church – Clinton, Eldon and Weightman. The building still retains the atmosphere of the countryside at the Century’s turning point.

Further along we approach the Hall, Mr William Lishman being tenant in 1900. The park until the sinking of the Pumping Shaft at East Herrington and Stoneygate was traversed by the Burn and was the scene of many Sunday-School outings for the village. Today this welcome greenery is our heritage as a result of persistent efforts of the Parish Council in the past to retain it. It was the habitat of many badgers fairly common in the area then. The Vaux family lived here at the time of the Great War. Ernest Vaux had served in the Boer War with Baden-Powell and on his return formed a Scout Troop as a pilot scheme in 1907. Meeting in Castle Street, Sunderland, many of the 400 members the following year were from the Waifs and Strays Rescue Agency and Vaux’s own Troop were inspected by Baden-Powell. Another Herrington name – Jane Helen McLaren – was one of the first woman Scout leaders in the country. The last tenant of the Hall, Mr Bell, was a building contractor keen on greyhound racing and hare coursing.

One of the visitors to the Hall when Mr Harry Bell lived there was the “daughter of Fu Manchu” the femme fatale actress of the silent screen Anna May Wong whom the two Bell sons invited when she was appearing at the Empire. Mr Bell had a herd of pedigree Belted Galloways but on occasions like May Days, Coronation Day etc., he allowed the use of the Hall grounds. The Hall was sold after the Bell’s tenure for £12,000 to the Miner’s Rehabilitation Committee, the 5 acres at the top of the park leased to the Parish Council in 1950 as a playing field.

Ultimately the whole 25 acres were acquired for £6000 but by then the Houghton Urban District had been taken over by Sunderland Rural District. On the day before several local councillors assembled at the gates and declared it an open space for all time.

Opposite the Hall was the original Hall Farm known as Low Place. It consisted of the steading, farmhouse and two cottages at the entrance to Fox Cover Lane.

Across this lane was a cottage, still standing, at the edge of the old village green and another at the entrance to the farm occupied by the Poole family.

The farm occupied then by Mr Edward James Weightman was famous for its Fresian cattle supplying milk to Sunderland.

From the farm a centuries-old bridle path leads to West Herrington with access through the field in front of the farm house. The modern highway of today was called the Battery Road and has in the early part of the 19th Century been a horse-drawn waggonway by which coal from Neasham’s Collieries at Newbottle was transported via the farmyard up Hastings Hill road to join at Fox Cover, the waggonway from Herrington to Sunderland.

Turning south to continue by the Park Wall is West Park, the area not developed until the late 1930’s. Half a mile along the Battery Road we find the footpath on the South side that leads across the fields to Stoneygate and soon after we pass the site of the Boiling Well, dried up by 1905 when pumping operations were under way. Next follows Rhubarb Lane and the Churchyard. The road opposite the entrance to West Herrington village runs to Herrington Woods covering three huge disused quarries which provided the materials for all the farm buildings, houses and stone walls hereabouts. Anciently covered by trees it was known as the “Wodehale” and provided the timber for the Bishop’s use. Game was kept here at the turn of the Century, Edward VII and George V being visitors for the shooting. The latter with Queen Mary walked the length of the village on their visit to Lambton Castle in 1913.

A private road leads to Herrington Hill House. This Hill was a favourite meeting place for the North Durham Hunt and the house was built by Dawson Lambton Esq. with adjacent stables.

The name of “Fox Cover” is an echo of this time. In the Newcastle Courant for 11th April 1818 it was advertised as “to be let a farm with or without the Mansion House on Herrington Hill for a tenure of 4 years, containing 202 acres”.

John Thurlwell lived here at the time of the 1851 census, Will Foster 1853-72. The Lambton land-steward, old Matthew Ryle occupied the house for a considerable number of years and a yeoman family, the Lee’s from Ryhope lived there for the entire reign of Farmer George.

The McLarens moved there in 1872, a family from Overardoch in Scotland who came southwards, settled in Offerton area about 1825 continuing there until the 1950’s. They farmed Offerton with great efficiency and the original seven sons occupied farms at North Hylton, Flinton Hill and here at Herrington Hill. One son developed the McLaren Traction Engine at Leeds used in Rope Ploughing.

The Hill itself was a huge limestone mass, contains on its summit reservoirs into which the water from East Herrington Pumping Station was stored, and being so high a point in the locality it was distributed by gravity to the surrounding area.

Below the hill was Sarah’s Garth but this lady’s identity has been lost in antiquity. The reservoirs had been built c.1890 after a typhoid outbreak in 1888 demanded some alteration to the primitive water supply which was a well sunk close to Herrington Pit. Those spared the outbreak are commemorated by the buildings around St Aidans. The sinking of the collieries in mid 19th Century at Philadelphia was regarded with mixed feelings no doubt by the farming community. Philadelphia was referred to as a “settlement provided by coal owners for their workmen who lived as an almost distinct class in society”.

Entering the village at the turn of the Century we would have passed a quoit pitch and the old implement shed, once the village smithy, further into the village was West Herrington Farm, tenanted by the Weightman’s. A group of farm workers cottages known as High Town had stood there. Across the village green was the church and on the North side the Manor House occupied amongst others by Bournes, Wallis and English families. Beyond the green was the Long Byre and two cottages – one had been a Dames’ School where children of bygone days learned their letters. The Low Town was the area further down the village and here was the village inn (The Shoulder of Mutton). In 1820 Robert Mushens appears at the Inn, J. Clark in 1857 and Thomas Hunter at the end of the 19th Century. Then the Lodge where Mr Stokoe lived from 1904-1925 when Colliery Manager, and The Cottage where Mr Ernest Weightman lived. He had entertained Tom Mix the U.S. Marshal turned actor in over 400 Westerns and who was appearing at the Empire. Mr Weightman together with Mr Thomas Allen of Manor Grove were both knowledgeable local historians of this area, Mr Allen a gifted writer on the subject. The late Mrs Curry of West Park has also contributed a history of the Shiney Row and Penshaw areas.

Appletons, Sibberts and Siddles were all prominent in agriculture here for long years.

Fifteen or sixteen houses had once stood at the foot of the village, housing the bulk of the population. The Old Road at the bottom crosses the Burn and passes into Low Fox Cover Bridle Path leading onwards to Flinton Hill.

So ends our journey through the Herringtons at the turn of the Century.